In the second part of this interview, Adebayo Shittu speaks on his failed gubernatorial ambition, the future of the All Progressives Congress and his chances of being re-elected a minister.
PT: Now you are out of the communications ministry and probably you’ll be back in the Federal Executive Council and probably again you may not be back in the communications ministry. Will your exit not affect these reforms?
Shittu: Well it shouldn’t affect. I’m not God and I don’t know what will happen, who will become the next minister of communications. But I want to believe that in view of the potentially fantastic benefits of these processes, no minister will come and do away with them particularly because we also engaged the Bureau of Public Enterprises. And Also, I think largely that the board of NIPOST now is in line with me and with the post-master general in getting this thing done. We spent a lot of money on consultants to advise on how best to implement these policies. So, I don’t see anybody reversing what we have been able to do.
PT: Two brief questions. You speak as if you’re confident of getting reappointed. Are you confident of getting reappointed? Would you prefer any other ministry to the communications?
Shittu: To the first leg of your question, I am cautious enough, and as a lawyer, I know that Mr President has the legal powers and responsibility to appoint whoever he wants as a member of his cabinet. I don’t doubt that and I rather leave that to him. He decides what he wants and whatever he wants is backed by the constitution of Nigeria. So, don’t say that I’m confident. But of course, I’m confident of my capability and my record in the communications ministry. If I have another opportunity, it will be easier for me to continue with what I have started that. A lot of people get shocked when I say that I would rather prefer to remain in that communications ministry because they believe some other ministries are money-spinning ministries and so anybody who wants or likes money should be posted not to an orphan of a ministry like communications but to juicy ones. I am a man of principle and I believe that the best thing that has happened to me, in governance and politics, is the fact that I was employed to be minister of communications. I know what I’ve gained by way of exposure to the ICT world and to its capability as the greatest source of national development. I could not have gotten that in any other place. Nigeria, for instance, has had petroleum and its revenue for almost 60 years; yet, Nigeria remains an underdeveloped country. I know also in so many other countries, including Kenya and Rwanda and a few other countries, So, I would rather, if I have the choice, align with that place where I can utilise this very important resource called ICT, digitization and all of that to assist in the development of Nigeria.
PT: Away from the ministry and your role as the minister, did you play a role in helping the APC lose in Oyo state?
Shittu: I could not have played a role because I’m a founding member of APC in Nigeria. Recall that I was a gubernatorial candidate of CPC in 2011. So, when APC was to be formed, I was one of the critical persons, who had to be deployed to serve particularly in the constitution drafting committee. You see a number of things happened. When there’s mischief, when there’s injustice, God has a way of ensuring that people are punished for their mischief, for their injustices and all of that.
PT: So, God punished the APC in Oyo state for its mischief?
Shittu: He did. He punished the leaders of APC in Oyo State and in the same vein it also showed to our national chairman that you don’t do injustice and get away with it. Let me also go back a little. I was a member of the Oyo State House of Assembly between ‘79 and ‘83 and at that time, NPN was as unpopular as PDP became in the recent past. As one of the eggheads in the parliament, I was just fresh from law school and I was one of those who had all the English to lambast NPN for their corruption and this and that. But along the line, I realised that some of the things we were criticizing in NPN, some of our leaders were also doing the same thing in the area of corruption and as somebody who detests corruption to the marrow, I raised an issue that we needed to prove certain contracts. My motion was taken, a committee was set up by the second day. But later there was a motion again to review the previous day’s motion calling for the nullification or disbandment of that committee which was set up. First, I raised my hand to try to object but the then speaker, late now, said ‘as speaker I overruled you, those in favour say ayes, the ayes have it.’ And the next thing was they got my constituents to move motion for recalling me, for disciplining me. They took the whip position from me and made me consequently party-less. Of course, the consequence was that I didn’t have any power but what God did was to ensure that the party lost that subsequent general election in 1983. And that was what brought me into the cabinet of Dr Omololu Olunloyo as the commissioner for home affairs, information and culture. In the same vein, many years after, I wanted to be governor, of course, I had attempted it before and I knew I was the most qualified for a number of reasons. From my area, we’ve never been governor and that’s 10 local governments which had been laying the golden egg for APC both in 2015 and in 2019 and I want you to go and check the record. Oke Ogun area has always provided more than enough votes over and above any other section of the state for the party. In 2015, it was the votes of my zone, Oke Ogun that made Governor Ajimobi win because his own people didn’t vote for him. And after that election, he went around on a thank you tour and promised my zone that we would be governor after him. We didn’t know that he was telling lies but by 2019 when it became our turn he started his political shenanigans which led to my disqualification and I told the party at that time that God would never support the mischievous. If you didn’t give me the ticket, if you unlawfully disqualified me, the consequences would be very grave for the party. I don’t have power, I don’t even have any money to bribe anybody but just like my people in Oke Ogun had always been doing, we voted massively for Mr President. In fact, we used the votes of Oke Ogun to upturn largely the votes from Ibadan and some other parts. But when it came to the governorship, my people said no we can’t have this anymore. We cannot continue to be number 2. So, what has happened I see as the work of God who shall always rise to justify the position of the oppressed. I was the oppressed clearly.
PT: Do you think you should have won if you were the APC candidate?
Shittu: In Oyo state today, and I’m saying this with all sense of humility, I’m the most experienced politician having served in the House of Assembly for 4 years, having served twice as the state commissioner, once as the commissioner of home affairs and culture and then in 2007 I was Attorney General of the state. I have been a member of the Judicial Service Commission, I have been a manner of several government boards and corporations and now minister for 3 and a half years. So, nobody could beat me. Apart from that, I also have a legal background having been a lawyer for 40 years and also the fact that I come from the zone which produces the largest bulk of votes for whichever party that it believes in. So, there’s no doubt that I would have won the election.
PT: Who did you vote for in the governorship election?
Shittu: It is not your business to ask who I voted for.
PT: Did you vote for your party?
Shittu: Why wouldn’t I vote for my party? If only to be able to swear anywhere with the name of God that I voted for my party, I did that. Even though I didn’t believe that I ought to have suffered the injustice I suffered.
PT: So, you’re saying despite the fact that you felt cheated by the APC, you still voted for them?
Shittu: Of course, I did. I was not invited to any of their meetings anyway. But when the Vice President came we went around, including going to my hometown and all of that.
PT: I’m surprised that you and Abiola Ajimobi didn’t work together during the election. I understand that during 2017/2018 he re-approached you and other aggrieved APC politicians, like Kamil Akinlabi. I understand there was a meeting here in Abuja.
Shittu: If you know Ajimobi, you know he’s a very arrogant person. He’s someone who looks down on others. What happened was that there was a meeting of south-west leaders of APC in the office of the governor in Ibadan. After the main meeting, while we were being entertained, he said ‘Chief Osoba, you are chairman of the party internal reconciliation committee, you ought to know that I and Barrister Shittu are not in good terms. What have you done.’ and everybody said Chief Osoba should call these people together. But Chief Osoba at that time had a health challenge and he had to go to the UK to take care of himself. So, I took the initiative by myself to go and meet the governor. I asked when he would likely be in Abuja and he gave me a date. Then I said ‘Governor why are we fighting? We have been friends.’ He said he learnt that I was boasting that if I succeeded him, he would be in jail. And I told him, ‘Governor you know how religious I am. I don’t boast about anything because the future belongs to God. Anybody who told you that, please bring me and the person together and let us confront each other.’ He said ‘okay now, our dispute is over, tell all your people that we are no longer fighting.’ and I was happy. The third day after I called to thank him for the warm reception, he said ‘on the land dispute between you and the local government in your hometown (because I’m building an ICT centre in my hometown), I’ve resolved the land dispute.’ But on the fifth day, he sent bulldozers to go and destroy my ICT centre.
PT: Is it the ICT centre private or owned by the government?
Shittu: Private. Everything was reduced to powder and 10 tippers were used to evacuate to go and fill potholes on the road to Ogbooro from Shaki. When I learnt about it I called he didn’t pick. I sent text to him that I was surprised about this thing, he didn’t respond. Then I called Teslim Folarin to report. Till tomorrow Teslim has not given me a feedback. The matter is in court anyway. So, it was not that he initiated the reconciliation. It was I who went to him and all I see in this is a person who is very mischievous, who does not want people who potentially can surpass him in terms of performance in government. On top of that is the fact that he colluded with Oshiomhole to get me disqualified.
PT: Would you want Oshiomhole to continue as the chairman of the APC?
Shittu: That question is preposterous. This is somebody who met the party having 26 states but, by the time he engaged in all the shenanigans and destruction, the party is left with barely 20 states now. My fear is if he’s not removed before 2023, there’s a possibility of APC going down. It is Buhari who is keeping the party together now. Once President Buhari is no more on the ballot, I cannot say, with Oshiomhole, what will happen. So, it is the matter of urgency that we must retire him so that we bring in fair-minded person who would engage less of his mouth than his brain.